Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Question about part of my story.

   
Author Topic: Question about part of my story.
elzoog
Member
Member # 4410

 - posted      Profile for elzoog   Email elzoog         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I am writing a story about a strange universe where the physical laws don't necessarily correspond to the laws of this one.

My question is about the following passage:

_______________________
Chapter 20

The planet Toomuc is one of the most difficult planets to describe in the Capiam Universe. If looked at by a person who is almost blind, it looks sort of like an oblong sphere which is about twice as long as it is high. However, to see the planet in this way requires that your vision be just a tad bit better than being totally blind. If your vision is capable of discerning details at all, you will notice that the surface is very jagged. As if someone took a graph of the Weierstrass function and wrapped it around the same oblong sphere that the almost blind
man would see.

The colors of the planet are also fractal-like where the colors change slowly. However, most of the colors tend to be blue, yellow, green, with some dark purple and very small patches of
black.
____________________________________________

Would this pass as an adequate description of the planet? Or, should I go into more detail?


Posts: 30 | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspirit
Member
Member # 7974

 - posted      Profile for aspirit   Email aspirit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi, elzoog. The second-person POV was distracting to me in this passage, which spends as much time describing a theoretical viewer's eyesight as it does describing the planet.

The description of the planet is also vague:

  • oblong sphere --> ovoid
  • about twice as long as it is high --> Using length and height for a planet is strange, unless you're talking about a 2D image of it.
  • very jagged --> compared to what?
  • fractal-like where the colors change slowly --> It took me a moment to figure out how color changes could be fractal-like, and I'm left with multiple possibilities.

I'll assume this planet is viewed by a character who cares about the planet's appearance. Writing from that character's POV might help when deciding on how to describe the planet.

[This message has been edited by aspirit (edited September 25, 2010).]


Posts: 1130 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RoxyL
Member
Member # 9096

 - posted      Profile for RoxyL           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was recently watching a youtube series on writing stronger sentences. The author gave some advice about describing things that are unfamiliar to an audience that may be helpful to you.
First he said, describe the familiar before the unfamiliar. Are there things we would recognize about this planet? That would help ease our mental picture into the planet's oddities.
Second, put the simple before the commplex, which may be useful for your description of light and color.
And lastly, put the short before the long. So short explanations and sentences should precede longer ones, once again to prepare us for unfamiliar information.

Hope this helps. You have some very interesting ideas. Your universe sounds fascinating!


Posts: 262 | Registered: Apr 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 

For me it didn't sound too bad but at the same time who is this for? If it's the narrator talking to the reader I think it's too complicated. If it's one character talking to another it's not so bad.

It sounds almost like a tour guide. That's not so good in a story-novel etc., unless it is a tour guide.

I can see what he is talking about so you got that much over but at the same time, as I said, depending on who this is for it goes into too much detail.


Posts: 4635 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MrsBrown
Member
Member # 5195

 - posted      Profile for MrsBrown   Email MrsBrown         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't get why its described the way an almost-blind man would see it. Why is that relevant?
Posts: 775 | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
elzoog
Member
Member # 4410

 - posted      Profile for elzoog   Email elzoog         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Basically the purpose for the passage is to introduce the planet. The shape of the planet is actually somewhat ellipsoid (thanks to Aspirit). However, the planet has A LOT of sharp peaks and valleys that are so obvious that even someone with a small amount of visual acuity would see them. There are various colors on the planet that are arranged in a kind of spiral fashion with the spirals having a fractal nature. What I mean by that is that from a distance, you see the spirals. When you zoom into a spiral you don't see just one individual color. Instead you see another spiral.

Basically, the structure of this chapter (as well as the next two or three chapters is)

1) Introduce the planet and what it looks like.
2) Characters on the spaceship land on the planet, notice that what they see on the ground doesn't match what the planet looks like from space.
3) Characters meet the leader of the planet as well as a few other characters on the planet and interact with them.
4) The planet (as well as other planets in the story) hold a key to a puzzle they are trying to solve. They use interactions with the people on this planet as well as some strange logical reasoning to find out what this key is (this applies to any other planet they encounter in the book).
5) After they get the key, they go on to the next planet which will also be strange in some way.

This particular planet though (Toomuc) is gonna be damn hard to write about. The planet could have something like 1.3 X 10^53 (a number that's 53 digits long) possible states it could be in that could all exist simultaneously in a single second. This is because each "atom" could have several states and the planet has somewhere around 10^52 atoms. Explaining why this is the case will be difficult.


Posts: 30 | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DevinAethnen
Member
Member # 8776

 - posted      Profile for DevinAethnen   Email DevinAethnen         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
You should really consider telling it from the perspective of your characters. We don't want to know what a hypothetical blind man would or wouldn't see, we want to know what your actual characters see.

For example, how would someone know from a distance that the patterns are fractal? They would note merely colorful spirals at first. Only as they got closer would they notice that the spirals are made of smaller spirals. Having your characters make these observations would be showing us instead of telling us about them.

Also, I think you need to make the shape clearer. Your description is of a two-dimensional image, not a three-dimensional object. Do you mean that it is a squashed sphere, much wider at its equator than from pole to pole? Or do you mean that it is like an egg spinning on its side?


Posts: 13 | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
elzoog
Member
Member # 4410

 - posted      Profile for elzoog   Email elzoog         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Devin "You should really consider telling it from the perspective of your characters."

I appreciate that advice. Here is my question. The beginning of "Of Mice and Men" by Steinbeck goes...

_________________
A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.
_________________

In other words, he is describing scenery. He doesn't for example do

George "I'm gonna wade in this river to get cleaned up."
Lenny "That's a fine idea George." Lenny gets in the water. "My the water's warm George. Why is the water warm?"
"Hell I don't know. Maybe it's 'cause it's been running over those hot sands over there."

When is it appropriate to simply describe a scene from a narrator point of view as opposed to a character point of view?


Posts: 30 | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
elzoog,

First I just want to say that for the reasons others have already said, this description does not work for me either. Mostly it is the blind person's perspective. From your latter post I think I understand what you are trying to do, but it isn't coming through in the original post.

quote:
When is it appropriate to simply describe a scene from a narrator point of view as opposed to a character point of view?

That is up to the writer to decide, and it depends on what you, as the writer, wants the reader to get from the description. If you simply want to convey information, than describe it from a narrator. Just don't let it go on for too long or it will read like a dreaded info dump, which can be boring.

But I don't think this is what you want to accomplish. Correct me if I am wrong, but I get the feeling that you want to instill awe and wonder about this planet in the reader. I think this is best accomplished by describing the planet through a character who is awed by the sight of the planet.

Let us feel his or her wonder and excitement of seeing this unusual planet. I think it would make the description much stronger and more interesting as well as giving us insight into that character as well. There is nothing like multitasking.

I agree with the advice of others that this would work better for me if it was told through a POV character rather than an encyclopedia-like narrator, but that is just my opinion. You do what you think is best for the story.

Good luck with this.


Posts: 1026 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
elzoog
Member
Member # 4410

 - posted      Profile for elzoog   Email elzoog         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
MAP "Correct me if I am wrong, but I get the feeling that you want to instill awe and wonder about this planet in the reader."

Maybe, but more importantly, when the characters land on the planet, it won't look anything like what they think because when they land everything will look flat. But this doesn't happen until after about a page or so.

In other words, from space the planet's surface looks jagged. Characters think maybe there will be some huge mountains. One of them even thinks of bringing mountain climbing equipment. When they land? It's flat and no mountains to be seen anywhere. What? This makes no sense!

That's the feeling I eventually want to convey. This will happen A LOT on this planet.

So, I think maybe taking the "blind man" perspective out is a good idea. I put it in there as a way to try to say that the general shape of the planet is ellipsoid, but anyone with any good eyesight at all would see it's not an ellipsoid.

Other than that, in your opinion how can I rewrite the first few paragraphs to set up a "What? This makes no sense!" feeling by the time you get to the eighth paragraph or so?


Posts: 30 | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:

I appreciate that advice. Here is my question. The beginning of "Of Mice and Men" by Steinbeck goes...

_________________
A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool.
_________________

In other words, he is describing scenery. He doesn't for example do

George "I'm gonna wade in this river to get cleaned up."
Lenny "That's a fine idea George." Lenny gets in the water. "My the water's warm George. Why is the water warm?"
"Hell I don't know. Maybe it's 'cause it's been running over those hot sands over there."

When is it appropriate to simply describe a scene from a narrator point of view as opposed to a character point of view?


Yes, it can be done that way but I think that depends on a couple of things. First how long the description will be and in your case how complicated. Second is how you, the writer, feel about it. Third could be how boring it is. I hate to put it that way but usually shorter is better. Generally speaking readers like descriptions that are clear and concise. Well, that goes for any type of scene. You don't need fighting to make something interesting but at the same time you need to keep a reader's attention.

Actually, I think the second description, to us, was better.


Posts: 4635 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Maybe, but more importantly, when the characters land on the planet, it won't look anything like what they think because when they land everything will look flat. But this doesn't happen until after about a page or so.

In other words, from space the planet's surface looks jagged. Characters think maybe there will be some huge mountains. One of them even thinks of bringing mountain climbing equipment. When they land? It's flat and no mountains to be seen anywhere. What? This makes no sense!


So the characters do see it from outer space before they land. I still think we need to see the planet through their perspective. That way you will set us up for a "What the hell! This wasn't what we expected" moment.


quote:
That's the feeling I eventually want to convey. This will happen A LOT on this planet.

I think whenever there is a feeling you want to convey (whatever that is) it is always best done through a character's POV. If you want to convey information and let the audience decide what to think and feel, then it is best to use a detached narrator.

quote:
So, I think maybe taking the "blind man" perspective out is a good idea. I put it in there as a way to try to say that the general shape of the planet is ellipsoid, but anyone with any good eyesight at all would see it's not an ellipsoid.

Would they see a ghostly outline of an ellipsoid? Or when they squint would they see it? Wouldn't someone with good eyesight see some hint of the ellipsoid shape?

quote:
Other than that, in your opinion how can I rewrite the first few paragraphs to set up a "What? This makes no sense!" feeling by the time you get to the eighth paragraph or so?

I think I'm repeating myself, but it is through the characters thinking "What? This makes no sense" that will convey that thought to the reader.

But this is my preference. I filter everything through my characters. I think it makes things more interesting and helps build emotional resonance between the reader and the characters. I also write very character driven novels, so I am not really sure if our writing styles are similar.

I hope this helps.


Posts: 1026 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2